Here is the performance review of the Nike Kobe XI (11) Elite. It has a dynamic cushion setup, solid support system, and comfortable upper. Where does the Kobe 11 rank amongst the best in the signature line? Only one way to find out…
TRACTION: The Kobe signature line is home to the greatest traction setup of all time; that being the setup used in the Kobe 9, but the question is: does the 11 reach or exceed the high bar set by the Kobe 9? To make things simple, no. The traction used on the Kobe 11 is quite complex. Using a recessed spine, which is supposed to grip the floor when pressure is applied, is hard to notice during use so we’re going to have to take Nike’s word that it’s doing its job. The tight and shallow diamond pattern isn’t durable at all, making the Kobe 11 non-option when it comes to outdoor ball and a dust magnet when it comes to dusty indoor floors — so expect to wipe frequently.
A lot of people have been giving us conflicting reports on the traction for the Kobe 11. It seems like half of the population has had no problems whatsoever, while the other have claimed that is has a variety of issues unless used on a perfectly clean floor. Personally, I have had no issues with the traction regardless off floor condition. Sure some floors were dusty, but with constant wiping and maintenance, everything performed fine. It is worth nothing that the people who have complained about the traction to me are all players that are relativity light on their feet. I am a more powerful player that uses hop steps, hard cuts, and power drives to the hoop to my advantage. Thus, the traction on the Kobe 11 may work better for certain play styles than others. However, it could just come down to your floor condition and how well maintained you keep your outsoles. Whatever the reason for the inconsistencies of the Kobe 11’s traction, this is something that shouldn’t be happening on a $200 model.
Cushion: Every year the latest Kobe line is on the feet of many NBA players, regardless of their position and size, because of the Kobe line’s versatility — the Kobe 11 is no different. The drop-in midsole technique is nothing new, but Nike refines and perfects this system with the Kobe 11. Using both Lunarlon and Nike Zoom, the Kobe 11’s cushion is one of the most dynamic setups on the market today. The 10MM zoom heel bag is great for those powerful hop steps and drives to the basket, while the Lunarlon forefoot allows for great flexibility and freedom of movement that is rivaled by no other with its Nike Free-inspired design. As an added bonus, each individual nub on the Nike Free-inspired forefoot acts as a little piston that gives you an extra pep in your step when pressure is applied. The Kobe 11’s cushion will give you everything you need and want regardless of position and play style. On a side note. if you go on NikeiD, you can customize the cushioning in the Kobe 11 with a full-length Zoom or full-length Lunarlon setup. I’ve already ordered a colorway with the full-length Zoom setup so stay tuned for a separate performance review on that.
Materials: Third time’s a charm? Nike has been trying to figure out Flyknit, in basketball terms, for three years now and the Kobe 11, while not perfect, does give us a worthy experience that captures the essence of Nike’s Flyknit technology. While not entirely Flyknit, the TPU strands that run within the upper provide more structure and support — which is necessary for every basketball player. But what you gain in structure and support, you sacrifice with one-to-one fit. The toebox area has some unwanted dead space that didn’t bother me as much as I thought it would, but didn’t exactly wrap around my foot the way I would have liked it too. This is the best version of Flyknit on a basketball sneaker we have had to date no doubt, but it falls short when compared to other woven materials on the market such as Jordan Brand’s performance woven upper and adidas’ Primeknit. While Nike might be playing catch up in this department, the Kobe 11’s upper is perfectly fine during use and doesn’t do anything to distract you on the hardwood.
Fit: Going true to size will be your best bet and thanks to the low and wide base, wide-footers need not worry about going up half a size as the 11 fits around your foot nicely, minus the excess volume in the toebox area. The Kobe 11 falls just short of feeling like an extension of your foot that feels like nothing is there. Had Nike used the TPU strands strategically instead of throughout the entire upper the Kobe 11 might have given us an even better experience. However, as mentioned in the materials section, the Kobe 11 sacrifices one-to-one fit — that usually comes with Flyknit — for structure and support and I never once said, “I wish the upper and fit was a little better” during my time in the Kobe 11. The extremely lightweight feel and freedom of movement on the Kobe 11 will have you worried about your game rather than what’s on your feet.
Support: The Kobe signature line has always been one of the most versatile basketball models on the market. Every year a variety of players at different positions and play styles lace up the latest Kobe model knowing it can provide their every need on the hardwood. Fans of the signature line will be happy to know the the Kobe 11 is no different. Using two lateral outriggers on the forefoot and heel for increased stability on a variety of cuts, the Kobe 11 can be used fast or slow. Other standard features such as an internal heel cup and a solid lacing system keep your foot where it belongs to get the most out of that amazing cushion setup. Everything works in unison to support you at all times without feeling overwhelming whatsoever.
Overall: Let’s get one thing out of the way: the Kobe 11 does not have a lot of value. With a retail price of $200 you can absolutely get an experience just as good for a much more reasonable price. But it’s still a Kobe, and his “last” one at that, so paying a premium price shouldn’t surprise us. When you take price out of the equation the Kobe 11 is still a very solid performer. With its dynamic cushion setup and versatile support system, any player at any position can lace up the Kobe 11 and find an enjoyable experience. Had the traction been more consistent, regardless of play style and floor condition, the Kobe 11 would be up there with the best performing models in the entire signature line. However, with conflicting experiences with the traction and a steep entry fee, the Kobe 11 falls just short of greatness yet still achieves very high levels of performance that cannot be denied.